While many Russian tank types are nominally meant to be replaced by the T-14 Armata, the modernization of old tank types is still occurring. Perhaps one of the more overlooked tanks that continues to be modernized are variants of the T-80.
While some in the West thought the design was a dead end after what was seen as a lackluster performance in Chechnya, many firms continued work on some very ambitious upgrade projects for it. Despite the economic hardship of the 1990s resulting in the cancellation of most of those, the Russian military has not given up on the T-80, and the type continues to be updated up to modern standards.
The primary reason for this is Russia’s geographic location. While T-72s and T-90s perform well in most climates, in the north where the temperatures can get very low, the T-80 is a far superior machine due to the turbine engine.
While Russian diesel tanks can take around 45 minutes to start at -30 degrees Celsius, gas turbine tanks can be up and running in around one minute. T-80s are also said to be more comfortable and warmer for the crew in such climates than other tanks.
So how did Russia plan to upgrade the T-80? Originally, the focus was going to be on improving the (then) top of the line T-80U. One of those projects was the Object 640 “Black Eagle” developed by the Leningrad (then Omsk) Plant. This tank was very forward-looking for its time and had a number of innovative concepts.